My phone rang for the third time while I was still in the shower. I knew who it was, unfortunately, I had forgotten to put it on silent as I had resolved last week. Nick has been blowing up my phone for nearly a month, asking me to grant him an audience.
I have shallow memories of him. His cocoa-stained teeth, bloodshot eyes and long unkempt nails are the memories in my mind. The mere memory of his long nails rattles the core of my existence. I wonder why it’s been so hard to forget him. I wrote him off dead as when he left, but he lives rent-free in my mind like he never left.
Sometimes, the nightmares I experience are so vivid. Maybe they are trying to reconnect me to my blurry memories. I think I blocked out everything to save myself. Everything is a blur, except for Bridget, the raggedy grey doll my mother bought me. She’s the only thing I’ve held onto all these years. The one thing that brought me peace, kept me company and eventually never hurt me. Still, it’s the only thing that I feel safe around, that sees me, especially on nights I can’t sleep and I gently caress it.
My mother, her name was Victoria though most people called her Vicky. She was light, almost yellow and had the perfect set of teeth. Her touch was smooth and she talked endlessly. She loved reciting the rosary, singing in the choir and spending most of her time in church. I remember her swollen eyes when the priest came to anoint my extremely sick grandma, we fondly called her Jaja. She wouldn’t leave her bedside, but miraculously, Jaja survived the accident.
It was this same miracle I was praying for when I met Mama writhing in pain on the floor that evening after school. She was bloody, her eyes a pale white.
“Mama! Mum! Wake up!” I screamed.
She struggled to open her eyes, and when she eventually did, I could see the pain in her eyes. I ran out screaming, asking the neighbours to come to our aid.
“Help! Somebody, please help me!” I ran out of our one-bedroom house. Parts of the wall and the carpet were bloodstained.
“We have been attacked. My mother is bleeding. Somebody, please help us!” I cried.
Now, Malaika was a town that lived for gossip, and it was very awkward that I felt a reluctance, some kind of hesitation from people. Usually, they would have been there when the first scream rented the air.
Mama Susy walked hastily towards me waving her hands in the air as if asking me to stop screaming.
“Ssshhhh! Emma, stop screaming,” she said as she covered my mouth with her right hand as the left one went around my waist. She then whispered into my ears.
“It is your father who did it! Please stop crying now, my baby will wake up.” Her hand was still covering my mouth as confusion visibly took over me.
I was trying to speak, but tears and the pain in my throat muffled my words. How could my father hurt my mother and leave her bleeding profusely on the floor? Did she even hear what she said? Her words confused me more and tears freely ran down my cheeks.
“He was holding a machete, threatening to kill anyone that came close to his house. Emma, you should have seen how scared we were,” she said while clapping her hands.
“Where is he?” I asked amid tears.
“He left in haste after I told him that the police are on their way. He has threatened to come back for me too. Your father is such a terrible man!” Mama Susy said as if scolding me for his actions.
“Why hasn’t anyone rushed my mother to the hospital?” I asked, pacing up and down looking towards the gate.
“We are waiting for the police. We can’t do anything until they get here. Or at least those are their instructions.” She answered.
“How long has it been? Didn’t you say he was gone?” I asked.
“Yes, but what if he comes back?” Mama Susy questioned.
“My mother is losing a lot of blood. We have to help her,” I begged.
The police van pulled up to the gate as I tried to persuade Mama Susy to help me get Mama to a hospital. The arrogant policemen at first, had opted to take my mother to the morgue, but my frantic tears changed their minds. Sadly, Mama barely lasted an hour when she got to the hospital.
I don’t remember seeing my parents fighting, but the awkward silence was hard to miss. I don’t remember a time my parents laughed or ate together or even exchanged ideas. Mama was always quiet and did as Nick ordered. He barely talked to me too, when he walked in, Mama would lock me in the bedroom and proceed to serve his meals.
The horror of their marriage was shared by Susan’s mother who at Mama’s burial was crying uncontrollably, whispering in splinter groups and surprisingly sharing the dark secrets of my parents’ marriage. Nick was arrested barely a week after Mama’s burial as he tried to sneak back into our house probably to take out some personal effects. Mama’s brother caught him and turned him over to the police.
My misery began after the gruesome murder of Mama and the arrest of Nick, my father. I had expected that one of Mama’s sisters’ would take me in and have guardianship over me. Instead, they all cited how their partners were wary of living with a murderer’s child and resolved to take me to boarding school. It broke me. I cried to Jaja, who only emphasized that I should stay strong. She often said that I reminded her of my mother. Her quiet nature and how she never liked to bother anyone.
She visited me occasionally, and I spent the holidays at her place. She died in my first year of campus and it was disheartening to watch how my cousins still treated me with so much disdain. Their pitiful looks as I put away Jaja’s things and as they asked me weird questions. That was the last time I was home. Jaja was the only one I considered family because she was the only one who supported and loved me unconditionally.
Jaja paid my school fees with Chama’s and taught me how to sew reusable sanitary towels from our old cotton clothes. When we laid her in the cold red soil, I vowed never to come back and to free myself of the traumas this family had given me and I did.
The phone rang again as I was applying lotion on my swollen tummy by the bedside and my husband looked at me, irritated.
“Emma, will you pick the damn call?” He asked, putting down his book.
“I won’t”. I answered softly as I gently rubbed lotion on my right leg.
“Are you in debt? Who is it?” He asked, his eyes gazing at my body.
I swallowed hard before I muttered, “My father.”
“From hell?” He asked, almost jumping out of his skin but sounding sarcastic at the same time.
“From prison,” I replied.
“Are you joking? Didn’t you say the man is dead?”
“Yes. He’s dead to me!” I said with finality as I punched the lotion bottle.
There was simply nothing my father and I could talk about. No words would give me back my family, or at least a mother. Someone that would have taught me how to care for myself while on periods; to be a young woman. His actions drove my family away from me. because the thought I inherited a ‘murder gene’ from him and would bring harm to their families. He took away my chance at love, experiencing it in its most real and raw form. Surely, I didn’t have it in me, to listen to him blame his actions on the devil, when neither he nor the devil can give me back what I lost? Moreover, I wasn’t ready to reconnect with someone I have so much resentment for, to practice forgiveness so that they too could die peacefully. I wasn’t ready to help him rid himself of guilt, to enable his self-centredness, while I still wish that he didn’t kill my mother. He was dead to me and I vowed never to pay attention to ghosts from my past.
The phone rang again. We stared at each other quietly, my husband’s eyes heavy with expectation. I had made my peace and I hope he did the same.
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